Is there a God?
Reliable information for those asking life's big questions
Older comments on pages in the Belief section.
25 May, 2015 at 8:42 am
Hi Ashley, it’s a pity you didn’t ask at the beginning “do you think anything you have said here is wrong?” and I could have told you “no I don’t think anything I wrote here is wrong”. It is no secret. I write what I believe is true …. as did Gary (I presume) …. and as do you I presume.
Just one other comment. “I believe God exists.” is a proposition. So is “I think unkleE will never admit he is wrong.”
If I want anyone to believe the first, I should offer evidence, which I do. Not necessarily “controlled, repeatable, falsifiable experiments that have been peer reviewed” (though I have included many of them on this website), for that is what is required for science, and we are not doing science here. In court, there is a different standard of evidence, in government policy there is another different standard of evidence, and so also in life. It is an arguable proposition what is the correct standard of evidence for believing in God, and discussing that may have been a whole lot more useful than arguing about my integrity.
And so if you want to demonstrate the truth of your proposition you also need evidence, again, not necessarily “controlled, repeatable, falsifiable experiments that have been peer reviewed” but something appropriate. So you have a burden of proof just as I do, except you offered nothing.
So I will continue to write what I believe is true, and I will be open to suggestions about how I could improve it, and I will listen to good evidence and reasoned arguments against what I say. You are very welcome to return and comment any time, but instead of making personal allegations, it would be nice if you came as a friend and offered constructive ideas.
Thanks you for visiting, and for engaging. Next time perhaps we may have a more productive time. Best wishes.
25 May, 2015 at 12:40 pm
So this is the part where you tell me that we disagree on everything, everything that I have said to date is mistaken or based on a misunderstanding on my part, that I am only making personal allegations rather than offering evidence and that we should now stop this conversation.
You could not have done a better job of proving my point for me. Disagree, mistaken, misunderstanding, stop.
The pattern continues.
I have finished setting my watch now.
25 May, 2015 at 1:27 pm
You have said it so I don’t have to say anything. 🙂
It is a pity. I suggested in option 2 we discuss in a friendly manner. I had said all I wanted to say, so I had made up my mind prior to your previous comment that I would try to go back to the friendliness, and my 3 questions were going to be asking you to tell me (1) what you believe, (2) what you are working at or studying, and (3) what are your interests. I would much rather get to know someone than have the sort of discussion we are having.
That option is still open to you.
But now I must make a confession and astound you by admitting I was wrong – but not I guess in the way you wanted me to say (or didn’t want me to say perhaps). I am now sorry I had all that discussion. That sort of picky discussion is not at all what I like to do, and I could predict the end from the beginning (same as you, I just didn’t say it).
I wish now I’d simply said that of course I think I’m right unless and until someone offers me some reason to think otherwise – which happens often enough, but rarely in these sorts of discussions unfortunately. Then we could have talked about something else, or at any rate, not all the stuff we said,
Would have saved both of us a lot of time, and you a certain amount of aggro I guess. But I had hoped engaging in conversation would be more polite and more productive. But I was wrong, and now I’m sorry. C’est la vie!
So if you’d like to take up the friendliness offer and talk like normal human beings, I’m still here, but if not. I’ll wish you the best and say farewell.
Daniel Hoffman says
25 May, 2015 at 5:43 pm
I would not call ourselves, at the Ethical Humanist Society of Philadelphia, a “substitute church”, because that makes me think of “nonfat half and half”, which contains neither milk nor cream, as a substitute for real half and half. Congregational humanists believe that being part of a community, which we have responsibility for and which has a right to make demands upon us, is essential to being fully human. We are not “humanists who congregate”. We are humanists BECAUSE we congregate.
We do have singing and a Sunday Platform. We do have coffee afterwards, followed by a “talkback” where we chat with the speaker. We spend lots of time promoting social and environmental causes.
Don’t despair about the state of Christianity in America. While in a minority, there are wonderful churches all over our country where they consider it their responsibility to do the hard work of respecting people they don’t really agree with or like very much, and where they strive to care about other people AS THEY ARE. Many of them are quite good at it. While I do not share their theology, I am often left feeling very humble when I look at the good they do in the world. I guarantee that you would have no trouble finding congregations of christians in America full of positive and caring people who believe in loving the poor and are horrified at those who sneer at them in the name of Jesus, while patting themselves on the backs for their holiness, as manifested by thier collection of nice worldly possessions.
I often talk to Catholics who are upset with their faith. Pope Francis looks like he is going back to the christianity of Pope Paul VI and away from the overt fascism of his three predecessors. I advise questioning catholics to go to a campus ministry or to the local Jesuit Mission. They will find good people who don’t pretend to have all the answers. “I don’t know.” is an honest answer and we should not be ashamed to say it.
There are two distinct variants of catholicism in America: one, typically the diocesian churches, for the superficial and unsophisticated, and one for the thinking people. They are almost distinct religions.
My son is in a Quaker school. They believe that the light of God exists in everyone. They say that, if we cannot find it there, we should not question the other person, rather, we should look to better developing our own power of discernment. BTW, even as an atheist, I would not dispute a thin theory of God that stopped there.
As to the comments on your site, they are quite polite compared to what we see all too often. I, personally, am trying to change. I used to think that I had to keep arguing until I got the other person to change his or her mind. It hasn’t born much fruit. One definition of ignorance is repeating something that hasn’t worked the last hundred times I did it. Nietzsche’s “Geneology of Morals” is where he argues that there are those who find happiness in their own lives and exeprience and there are those who are characterized by rancor, or “resentiment” towards precisely such people. He called it “the slave revolt of morality”, and painted over the three judaic religions with an overbroad brush with that criticism. Putting others down to find joy in our own lives is to infect ourselves with a horrible, and contageous, disease of the spirit. I am working hard to recover from it, but have a long way to go.
While I could raise objections to much of what you said in your well written defense of your faith, I don’t see what is to be gained. There is much room for me to leave the path you set out because you went down dichotomous paths where you argued “if you believe “x”, then “y” and, more often than not, I didn’t believe “x”. There is room to chat about that later. Essentially, I reject reductionism, while many leading atheist do not. My empirical experience of a strawberry smoothie is not an experience of a collection of molecules. It is a token of an altogether different type.
Furthermore, logic is overrated. I have studied it formally and the claim that logic and rules of evidence can bring well meaning and intelligent people to agreement is a claim that abjectly fails to save the phenomena. The world of our experience may be explained by science and logic, but explaining a strawberry smoothie is nothing at all like drinking one. We get into all kinds of trouble when we forget that.
If you understand my drift, you know that there is something important that the religious people are saying to us nonbelievers that many of us are not hearing. I do hear you.
26 May, 2015 at 5:33 am
Hi Daniel, it is interesting to hear all that. Yes I know there are good churches in the US and in Australia, though you and I might have some different criteria on that. When I was younger I was evangelical (not as hard lie as evangelical in the US I would think, and certainly not prosperity oriented), and as I’ve grown older I’ve picked up more on the care and serving and social justice side, but without dropping the other. So I would be looking for both. I have friends who are Mennonites and Quakers, so I know a little about both of those churches. I know little about Catholicism beyond the obvious, but do like this Pope.
It is interesting that you sing in your meeting. It seems to be a universal human characteristic. What do you sing?
Yes, I have certainly been on sites that were far ruder than people are here. But that isn’t a standard I am prepared to settle for. I understand how it is for some atheists (I used to be a bit the same). They see my stuff and they are kind of offended because they know that there’s no evidence for christianity so I must be a charlatan. So they open their comments with a bang and it goes downhill. I struggle to know how best to respond, but it is rare that critics can soften their stance and treat me like they would treat a friend who was a christian.
And yes, argument and logic are not generally effective – we are all too human! But, yes, it is good to learn from someone else. At the very least we can see how other people see us, and try to present better. And since I am interested in evidence and arguments, I appreciate people who have something to offer in those regards.
Thanks for commenting, I am enjoying learning about what you think.
27 May, 2015 at 6:54 am
Just an extra comment. I don’t know how deliberate this was, but I was pleased to see your comment: “you went down dichotomous paths where you argued “if you believe “x”, then “y””. Sometimes I express a strong opinion, but other times as you have noted, I try to leave final conclusions a little open – after all, I can’t make anyone’s decisions for them. This pleased me because, as you’ll know if you’ve read this whole discussion, I am sometimes accused of doing something quite the opposite, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I do hope readers will see I have tried to be reasonably fair. Thanks.
27 May, 2015 at 1:41 pm
I did read the entire set of arguments you made and read this whole discussion before posting. I think you were fair, which is not to say I agree with you. By my lights, I celebrate and am grateful for the half-full glass and feel that the empty part can be lamented by others.
I assume the readers of this thread have read and understood the implications of Shroedinger’s cat essay. I actually apply this in practical life.
An unfortunate fact of life is that there are researchers who have given us good reasons to conclude that as many as one in twenty-five people would pass a test to demonstrate sociopathy. The implications of this cannot be overstated. I use Shroedinger to screen for it in people I deal with. Here’s what I do:
A person does something they shouldn’t have done and, when I confront them about it, instead of accepting that they shouldn’t have done that and committing to doing better the next time, they become outraged that I would question their integrity and put me in a position that I have to chose between their complete innocence, and MY error, or an extreme version of my original accusation. They want me to make an “all or nothing” call. I don’t. I assign it a probabilistic value between zero and one. With a sociopath, there will be more occasions of that sort. I add them together.
When we look around the world at the horrific things happening to good people, I see sociopaths getting the rest of us into their fights. Eric, my goal is clear, and I want to make it explicit. People who care about each other need to stick together and not give in to people who don’t.
I am in way over my head and the magnitude of the task sometimes makes me feel like I am going to drown.
(Gross story alert!) When I was in the US Navy, it was probably 1978 or so, I was on watch in heavy weather. Everyone was seasick and I wound up at the helm with the sounds of the quatermaster and officer of the deck retching into the same trashcan, as the other vomit-filled can was bouncing around the bridge. I was sick too, but it occurred to me that there was nobody else left to take the helm if I let go. I found somehing inside myself to hang in there because I could not leave the ship without a helmsman in a heavy storm. Giving in to the negativity and drowning in self-pity is a luxury we cannot afford.
There is a truth that some people of faith see clearly, and most atheists do not. I saw a post on Facebook where a muslim person put up an illustration of a fish that said: “A person without God is like a fish without water.” My fellow atheists pounced in ways that I have done in the past and am highly competent at doing now. They missed the point. You don’t; and neither do I. Humans, as humans, live in a world of meaning that may be able to be EXPLAINED in scientific terms, but, when you take away all meaning from a human, that human suffocates and becomes something else.
I took the effort to reach out to you, Eric, because I read between the lines of what you wrote and clearly could see that you are trying to fill the pool faster than it drains. What is valuable to me is not how you undertake it, or even percieve it, rather that you are trying to do it.
28 May, 2015 at 8:48 am
Hi Daniel, thanks for your kind thoughts. I appreciate everything you have said. Yes we don’t agree on everything, but we agree on half.
Many christians only emphasise belief in Jesus and going to heaven. Most humanists emphasise doing good on earth. As a christian, I believe in both, so we have a lot in common.
And I do know what you mean about meaning and science. Some people, including many scientists, believe science is the great hope for humanity and the only way to know truth, but some surveys I have seen suggest many (perhaps most) people in western countries like your and mine are worried about how scientists sometimes seem to dehumanise people and forget that we are more than bundles of physical matter. As CS Lewis said once (in a different context), the scientists may say accurately what we are made of, but they often miss who we actually are. Because science cannot detect consciousness and free will, they say we don’t have it, rather than allowing our experience of consciousness and free will tell us that science can’t tell us everything and misses a lot out.
8 July, 2015 at 12:46 pm
I’d just like to pass on another way to help spread the gospel and it’s simply this:-
Include a link to an online gospel tract (e.g. http://www.freecartoontract.com/animation) as part of your email signature.
An email signature is a piece of customizable HTML or text that most email programs will allow you to add to all your outgoing emails. For example, it commonly contains name and contact details – but it could also (of course) contain a link to a gospel tract.
For example, it might say something like, “p.s. you might like this gospel cartoon …” or “p.s. have you seen this?”.
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